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Season Preview: Sawchuk West

In DEL, HAM, IHS, PWH, Special Features, VAN on October 11, 2018 at 8:48 am

In our fourth and final season preview, it’s time to look at the Sawchuk West, where big changes are afoot.

Check out the other previews:
Plante East
Plante West
Sawchuk East


Delta Sturgeon
Last Season’s Finish: 38-34-10 (6th in conference); missed playoffs
Notable Arrivals: F Jonathan Toews, D Jake Muzzin, D Zdeno Chara
Notable Departures: F Scott Hartnell, F Kris Versteeg, F J.T. Compher, D Cody Ceci

Wow! Sensing that its core — Nathan MacKinnon, Nikita Kucherov, Taylor Hall, and veteran Eric Staal — was on the cusp of becoming something truly special, the Sturgeon threw caution to the wind, dealing draft picks for the second straight season and acquiring the pieces it needed most: a faceoff guy (Toews), a puck-mover (Muzzin), and a stay-at-home beast (Chara). Mission accomplished. With a deep, if a bit workmanlike, blueline and the makings of a truly great goalie tandem in John Gibson and Antti Raanta, Delta has found itself in long-forgotten territory: contending not just for a playoff berth but for a championship. This is a roster with very few weaknesses. After missing the playoffs last year, the Sturgeon is about to become the league’s most improved team.

Verdict: Contender


Hamilton Ti-Cats
Last Season’s Finish: 42-35-5 (4th in conference); lost in 1st round
Notable Arrivals: F Mark Jankowski, F Blake Coleman, F Alex Iafallo
Notable Departures: D Mark Streit, D Toby Enstrom

The sign on the front door says ‘Under New Management’ and that may be the biggest difference for a team that’s contended for years without ever quite having enough for a championship. The team has stagnated badly over recent seasons as stars like Daniel Sedin and Henrik Zetterberg have aged. With those two nearing retirement, the Ti-Cats have two big factors keeping them in the playoff mix: a trio of star scorers in Claude Giroux, Patrick Kane, and Jakub Voracek, and one of the finest and most dangerous top-fours in the league in P.K. Subban, Roman Josi, Tyson Barrie, and T.J. Brodie. They weren’t able to add much besides bottom-sixers over the offseason, though, and if one of Corey Schneider or Keith Kinkaid can’t come through big, they may struggle. But a playoff spot is a safe bet for now.

Verdict: Playoffs


Ice Harbor Storm
Last Season’s Finish: 30-47-5 (8th in conference); missed playoffs
Notable Arrivals: F Alex DeBrincat, D Nick Leddy
Notable Departures: none

One of last season’s biggest mysteries was why the Storm were underperforming. On paper, they should have been vying for a playoff spot. In practice, they limped along to a terrible record, scored the second fewest goals in the league, and came up with another high draft pick. So is this the year they turn it all around? Once again, on paper, it’s hard to find glaring weaknesses in Ice Harbor’s lineup. And with just-drafted Alex DeBrincat, they addressed one of them: the need for a scorer who’d be hungry for goals. The Storm have, bar none, some of the best forward depth in the league, especially up the middle, where Kyle Turris and Mikael Backlund will be competing just for 4th line minutes. Blake Wheeler, Aleksander Barkov, Kris Letang, Rasmus Ristolainen… This team should be scoring plenty to support a still-solid Henrik Lundqvist. But that’s just on paper.

Verdict: Playoffs


Portland Winterhawks
Last Season’s Finish: 22-50-10 (9th in conference); missed playoffs
Notable Arrivals: F Pierre-Luc Dubois, F Jesper Bratt, F Riley Nash, F Mattias Janmark, G Michal Neuvirth
Notable Departures: F Luke Glendening, F Mark Letestu, F Dale Weise, D Radko Gudas, D Brandon Montour

The very definition of a bubble team, the Winterhawks followed up a surprisingly good ’16-’17 campaign with a disappointing one in ’17-’18 but have yet to throw in the towel and call rebuild. Last year’s acquisition of Phil Kessel, combined with the emergence of Brad Marchand and Artemi Panarin as top left-wingers, is a good base to build around. They parlayed the second overall pick into Pierre-Luc Dubois, who has a good shot at some top six time this season, and also drafted Jesper Bratt who will also be seeing GWMHL action. Still, the Hawks aren’t an especially deep team — David Krejci will be asked to do an awful lot as their top centre, and beyond Matt Niskanen the defense is a huge question mark, especially after the team flipped Brandon Montour for more forward help just prior to the season. They could sneak in, but will most likely find themselves out of the playoffs.

Verdict: Bubble


Vancouver Night Train
Last Season’s Finish: 42-30-10 (2nd in conference); lost in 2nd round
Notable Arrivals: F Denis Malgin, D Matt Grzelcyk, G David Rittich
Notable Departures: F Jonathan Toews, F Tomas Plekanec, F Johan Larsson, F Zack Kassian, D Alex Edler, D Kevan Miller, G Pekka Rinne

After making the postseason and taking the Boston Banshees to seven games in the Sawchuk Final, the Night Train made the surprising decision to commit to a rebuild. But did they go far enough? Vancouver brass has seemed reluctant to part ways with Mark Stone, Anders Lee, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and with Sergei Bobrovsky in goal, they’ll probably win a few. But with big gains coming from division rivals Delta and Ice Harbor, the Night Train chose to part ways with Rinne, Toews, Plekanec, and Edler. It’s a huge burden to put on the shoulders of young players Mathew BarzalThomas Chabot, and Shea Theodore, and the majority of the Train’s 2018 draftees are a season or three away. The loss of glue guys Shea Weber (to injury) and Toews will make them a lot easier to play against than in years past.

Verdict: Rebuilding

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Hischier, Dubois, McAvoy Headline 2018 Rookie Draft

In GLP, IHS, PWH, SJH, SSR, Transactions on September 16, 2018 at 2:30 pm

The 2018 GWMHL Rookie Draft is over, and 20 Gump franchises are returning to headquarters to count their winnings.

The draft got off to a stunning start with the announcement of several big trades (more on that to come), and then teams got down to business. South Side, owners of 4 first round picks after a dramatic sell-off extending through last season, picked Swiss phenom Nico Hischier first overall, while Portland also went for a future impact forward in Pierre-Luc Dubois. Charlie McAvoy was the first defenseman taken, by San Jose at #3, while Nolan Patrick (Great Lakes) and Alex DeBrincat (Ice Harbor) rounded out the top 5.

A goalie wouldn’t be taken until 24th overall, when the Pilots nabbed Thatcher Demko.

Along with Hischier, the Renegades scooped up forwards Anthony Cirelli at #9, Filip Chytil at #16, and Alex Formenton at #20.

Here are the full round-by-round results:

Round  1
 #     Overall #  Orig. Team  Curr. Team   Pick
 1             1         SSR         SSR   F Nico Hischier
 2             2         PWH         PWH   F Pierre-Luc Dubois
 3             3         SJH         SJH   D Charlie McAvoy
 4             4         GLP         GLP   F Nolan Patrick
 5             5         IHS         IHS   F Alex DeBrincat
 6             6         CHA         CHA   F Casey Mittelstadt
 7             7         PIT         PIT   F Eeli Tolvanen
 8             8         FFS         FFS   F Henrik Borgstrom
 9             9         EDH         SSR   F Anthony Cirelli
 10           10         DEL         WVR   F Owen Tippett
 11           11         WVR         SJH   F Kailer Yamamoto
 12           12         WPG         WPG   D Will Butcher
 13           13         ADI         ADI   F Jake DeBrusk
 14           14         HAM         HAM   F Lias Andersson
 15           15         VAN         VAN   F Martin Necas
 16           16         DEN         SSR   F Filip Chytil
 17           17         BAL         GLP   F Ryan Donato
 18           18         SAL         SAL   D Samuel Girard
 19           19         BOS         BOS   F Jordan Greenway
 20           20         PAR         SSR   F Alex Formenton

Check out rounds 2 through 4 after the jump!

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Trading Opens with Boston-Ice Harbor Swap

In BOS, IHS, Transactions on April 11, 2018 at 11:38 am

With the Gump Cup awarded, trading opened for the 2018 offseason — and one of the usual suspects was ready to pounce. The Boston Banshees were involved in the first move of the trading period for the fourth year running, sending defender Nick Leddy to the Ice Harbor Storm in exchange for centre Martin Hanzal and the Storm’s 2nd and 4th round picks in the 2018 Rookie Draft.

For Boston, who acquired Leddy just last season, the move may signal the beginning of a retool aimed at getting younger. The Storm, meanwhile, may have finally solved their long-standing need for a left-handed top-pairing defenseman.

Ice Harbor and Saint Louis Make 6-Player Swap

In IHS, STL, Transactions on April 19, 2013 at 12:00 pm

The Ice Harbor Storm, well out of playoff contention as the season approaches the midway point, have made another deal – sending Alex Steen, Michal Hanzus, Nicklas Grossmann, and draft picks to the Saint Louis Blues for Brayden Schenn, Mikkel Boedker, and Erik Johnson.

It’s the first move for Saint Louis’ new management, and a bold one, as they unload a young group to add veteran depth for a post-season push. The Storm, meanwhile, continue their rebuild. Schenn and Boedker join a young core that includes Jordan Eberle, Nazem Kadri, and Kyle Turris, while Johnson may be called upon to help Kris Letang lead a blueline group that also features Adam Larsson and Tyler Myers.

To STL: F Alexander Steen, F Michal Handzus, D Nicklas Grossmann, 3rd round rookie pick in 2013, 2nd round free agent pick in 2013
To IHS: F Brayden Schenn, F Mikkel Boedker, D Erik Johnson

Ondrej Pavelec is Storm-Bound

In IHS, Transactions, VAN on March 3, 2013 at 4:16 pm

The Vancouver Night Train have finally settled on their starter.

After several seasons duking it out with Pekka Rinne for the go-to role in Vancouver, Ondrej Pavelec is headed to the Ice Harbor Storm.

The Storm acquired the netminder in exchange for two 2013 draft picks – a 2nd and a 4th – and goaltender Mathieu Garon.

The Night Train selected Pavelec five spots behind Rinne in 2008 and Pavelec has found himself playing catch-up ever since. In 27 games with the Night Train last season, he managed a 3.18 GAA and a save percentage of .897.

Note: This move will officially take effect at the conclusion of Q2.

Teams Load Up at 2012-13 Rookie Draft

In BOS, DEL, EDH, GLP, IHS, News, SFS, Transactions on January 26, 2013 at 2:26 pm

There were few big surprises on draft day in terms of players selected, but several GWMHL teams still managed to make ripples with some bold trades.

The Delta Sturgeons kicked things off by selecting dynamic centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins first overall, but then the Boston Banshees – who had moved up several spots in the draft lottery – decided to make some noise. Boston dealt the second overall pick to the San Francisco Seals for the Seals’ first rounder (7th overall, Ryan Ellis) and power forward Milan Lucic. To no one’s surprise, the Seals took Gabriel Landeskog with the pick.

Other moves included Delta dealing forward Valtteri Filppula to the El Dorado Lynx for El Dorado’s first rounder (15th, Brendan Smith), Boston flipping a third rounder to the Lynx for steady defender Matt Greene, and the Ice Harbor Storm  trading some picks to the Great Lakes Pilots for a selection next year.

Round 1
1. Delta – F Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
2. San Francisco (from Boston) – F Gabriel Landeskog
3. Charleston – F Sean Couturier
4. Ice Harbor – D Adam Larsson
5. Pittsburgh – D Slava Voynov
6. Baltimore – F Mark Scheifele
7. Boston (from San Francisco) – D Ryan Ellis
8. Winnipeg – F Sven Baertschi
9. Farmington – F Ryan Johansen
10. Great Lakes – D Jake Gardiner
11. Denver – F Carl Hagelin
12. Saint Louis – F Jaden Schwartz
13. South Carolina – F Matt Read
14. Nashville – D Justin Faulk
15. Delta (from El Dorado) – D Brendan Smith
16. Portland – F Brett Connolly
17. West Virginia – F Andrew Shaw
18. Sterling – F Mika Zibanejad
19. Vancouver – F Zack Kassian
20. Salem – F Gustav Nyquist

Round 2
21. Delta – F Marcus Foligno
22. Ice Harbor – D Erik Gudbranson
23. Pittsburgh – D Stefan Elliott
24. Baltimore – F Cam Atkinson
25. San Francisco – F Cory Emmerton
26. Winnipeg – D Jared Cowen
27. Farmington – F Craig Smith
28. Charleston – F Cody Eakin
29. Great Lakes – F Tommy Wingels
30. Denver – D Tim Erixon
31. South Carolina – F Gabriel Bourque
32. Saint Louis – D Simon Despres
33. Boston – D Alexei Emelin
34. Nashville – D Roman Josi
35. El Dorado – F Brandon Saad
36. Portland – D David Rundblad
37. West Virginia – D David Savard
38. Sterling – D Dmitry Orlov
39. Vancouver – F Devante Smith-Pelly
40. Salem – G Allen York

Round 3
41. Delta – G Matt Hackett
42. Ice Harbor – F Peter Holland
43. Pittsburgh – F Reilly Smith
44. Baltimore – F Scott Glennie
45. San Francisco – D Raphael Diaz
46. Winnipeg – G Thomas Greiss
47. Farmington – F David Ullstrom
48. Charleston – D Brayden McNabb
49. Great Lakes – D Erik Gustafsson
50. Great Lakes – (from Denver via Ice Harbor) – F Marcus Kruger
51. South Carolina – F Louis Leblanc
52. Saint Louis – D Alexander Urbom
53. El Dorado (from Boston) – D Mattias Ekholm
54. Nashville – F Tyson Barrie
55. El Dorado – F Dwight King
56. Portland – D Matt Donovan
57. West Virginia – F Roman Horak
58. Sterling – F Carter Ashton
59. Vancouver – F Corey Tropp
60. Salem – D Dylan Olsen

Round 4
61. Delta – D Paul Postma
62. Great Lakes (from Ice Harbor) – F Anton Lander
63. Pittsburgh – F Akim Aliu
64. Baltimore – F Tomas Vincour
65. San Francisco – G Ben Scrivens
66. Winnipeg – D TJ Brennan
67. Farmington – F Carl Klingberg
68. Charleston – G Anders Nilsson
69. Great Lakes – F Joakim Andersson
70. Denver – D Calvin de Haan
71. South Carolina – F Aaron Palushaj
72. Saint Louis – F Nick Johnson
73. Charleston (from Boston) – D Marc-Andre Bourdon
74. Nashville – G Richard Bachman
75. El Dorado – F Jason Zucker
76. Portland – G Anton Khudobin
77. West Virginia – F Kaspars Daugavins
78. Sterling – D Matt Taormina
79. Vancouver – F Jimmy Hayes
80. Salem – D Cade Fairchild

Biggest Midseason Surprises of 2011-12

In DEN, EDH, IHS, NAS, News, SCA, Special Features, STE on January 30, 2012 at 12:38 pm

We’re halfway through our season. So what’s been raising our eyebrows?

As a Rule, Eagles are Pretty Badass

The Sterling Eagles have missed the playoffs four seasons in a row. But after 40 games, they’re second overall in the entire league with a stellar 23-12-5 record, and even managed to steal five points on the road against division rival Salem. They’re getting help where it counts, like unheralded winger Nikolai Kulemin, who already has 22 goals. Previous career high? Eight.

Backups Earning Their Keep

The Eagles’ Tim Thomas has the numbers (1.88, .939) but backup Johan Hedberg is winning more games. His record is 12-6-0 to Thomas’ 11-6-5. Likewise, the Ice Harbor Storm’s Alex Auld (.914) and Jonathan Bernier (.933) are busy overshadowing the “starting tandem” of Mathieu Garon (.885) and J-S Giguere (.874).

Pick One Already!

The Storm aren’t the only one with a menagerie of netminders in a pen out back. Five goalies have seen action for the Nashville Knights already this season: Sergei Bobrovsky (17 games), Cory Schneider (16), Ray Emery (3), Brian Boucher (3), and Mike Smith (1). That’s two rookies backed up by three vets, and the elevator pitch for an ensemble basic-cable sitcom.

Ovie-Shadowed

Alex Ovechkin is not leading the El Dorado Lynx in points. That’s kind of remarkable. The Lynx are okay – still in good playoff position at the halfway point, actually – thanks largely to the ageless Teemu Selanne, who has 18 goals and 45 points to Ovie’s 20 and 41.

Giddy-Up?

The Denver Spurs offense could use a swift, spiky kick in the rear. They don’t have the lowest GF, but let’s break it down: they’re deep up the middle and shallow on the wings, and that means they’re leaving lots of goals on the table. Mike Richards and Daniel Briere each have just 18 points in 40 games. Joffrey Lupul is their top scorer but has the lowest point total (28) of any team leader league-wide. Oh, also, he’s nursing an injury that could see him miss significant time.

Head of the Class

The top five draft picks (Skinner, Hall, Seguin, Eberle, and Stepan) are all playing pretty well, but they’re trailing in the rookie scoring race to an unlikely gaggle (herd? colony? murder?) of youngsters: South Carolina’s Tyler Ennis, Nashville’s PK Subban, Ice Harbor’s Mikael Backlund, and Baltimore’s Michael Grabner.

Brett Freaking Clark

Subban isn’t just the second highest scoring freshman so far. He also leads all defensemen in goals with 13, which might just make him the leading rookie-of-the-year candidate at this point. But that’s not even the most surprising development on Nashville’s blueline: Brett freaking Clark already has 10 goals, people. That’s just crazy.

Rookie Race: Backlund, Grabner Among the Best So Far

In BAL, GLP, IHS, NAS, Special Features on December 27, 2011 at 10:31 am

We might be just 20 games into the 2011-2012 rookie race, but there’ve already been some flat-out stunners. With several marquee freshmen handed plum jobs in their teams’ top-sixes, it’s boom-or-bust time. Here are four of the biggest surprises – good and bad – so far.

Mikael Backlund, Ice Harbor Storm

Backlund is a 2009 draftee who saw 23 games last year (0 goals, 4 assists). This season, with a young Ice Harbor team that’s thin up the middle, he’s had a chance to play a big role. And while the Storm have struggled (6-13-1), Backlund’s played well with second-line minutes, notching 8 goals and 6 assists on the quarter.

Taylor Hall, Great Lakes Pilots

First overall Jeff Skinner has had a decent start for 8-11-1 Nashville, with 12 points in his first 20 games. But where’s second overall Taylor Hall? He’s playing big minutes for the Great Lakes Pilots but has managed just 3 goals and 3 assists so far, is being outscored by teammates like Darren Helm, and sits at a team-worst -11.

Michael Grabner, Baltimore Crab

The fleet Austrian was drafted in 2010 by Vancouver and immediately dealt for a second rounder in 2011, who would become winger Kyle Palmieri. After spending all of last season on reserve, Grabner has started this season well with the Baltimore Crab, with 11 goals in his first 20 games.

Sergei Bobrovsky, Nashville Knights

Bobrovsky was taken 21st overall in 2011 and the expectation was that he’d step in and backstop a young but very talented Nashville team to playoff contention. But no one’s going anywhere with numbers like his: a 4.30 GAA and .887 save percentage. Bobrovsky has been soundly outplayed by Cory Schneider (4 games, 1.76, .927).

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Season Preview: Sawchuk

In BOS, DEL, FFS, IHS, NAS, PWH, SFS, STL, VAN, WVR on November 24, 2011 at 10:40 am

The last five Gump Cups have gone to Sawchuk Conference teams. The five years before that went to the Plante. Are we due for a sea change? With two flat-out powerhouses, a few perennial contenders, and several rebuilding teams poised to take the next step, there’s no shortage of intrigue in the Sawchuk this season. Here’s a look at what’s changed.

In – G Michal Neuvirth, F Marcus Johansson, G Devan Dubnyk, F Jordan Caron, D John Moore, F Nate Thompson, F Adam Hall
Out – F Mike Knuble, F Paul Kariya, D Niclas Wallin, F Jason Blake, D Jaroslav Spacek, G Jason LaBarbera, F James Wright

The Banshees, under new ownership eager to make a stamp on the team, made some significant moves this off-season, shipping out vets Mike Knuble, Jason Blake, and Jaroslav Spacek and bringing in two promising young netminders in Michal Neuvirth and Devan Dubnyk. But how much will they really play behind workhorse Henrik Lundqvist? A rested Lundqvist should terrify the rest of the conference come playoff time, though, and if Boston gets good performances from some of its younger players – notably Sam Gagner and Erik Karlsson – they should be in the running for a spot.

In – F Derek Stepan, G Kevin Poulin, F Linus Omark, F Mats Zuccarello, F Anthony Stewart, D Shane O’Brien, G Peter Budaj
Out – F Cristobal Huet, F Slava Kozlov, F Michael Nylander, D Wade Redden, F Mike Brown, F Tomas Kopecky, F Jay Pandolfo

There’s no question the Sturgeon are in full-on rebuild mode, and one that’s going quite well… up front. As players like Evander Kane continue emerging and newcomers like Derek Stepan get a chance to shine, they’ll improve. But there’s still major upheaval to come as its once mighty core retires or otherwise moves on, and there are big question marks on defense and in goal, meaning a young player like Alex Goligoski is going to have to be a number one defenseman this year, because Delta has no one else to fill those skates. And, seriously, Peter Budaj?

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Free Agent Draft: Lilja, Biron, Winnik Take Top Spots

In IHS, NAS, News, Transactions, WIN on November 9, 2011 at 4:44 pm

No big names but lots of roleplayers and veteran experience signed on with new GWMHL teams in the 2011-2012 Pre-Season Free Agent Draft . The Nashville Knights claimed defenseman Andreas Lilja in the top spot, while the Winnipeg Falcons shored up in net with Martin Biron. The Ice Harbor Storm took Daniel Winnik, most recently of the Altoona Railroaders, with the third pick. Other highlights included Nashville selection its 8 millionth goaltender.

Round 1

1. Nashville – D Andreas Lilja
2. Winnipeg – G Martin Biron
3. Ice Harbor – F Daniel Winnik
4. Delta – F Anthony Stewart
5. San Francisco – F Tomas Kopecky
6. Great Lakes – F Darren Helm
8. Baltimore – F Brandon Prust
9. Boston – F Nate Thompson
10. Pittsburgh – G Ben Bishop
12. Sterling – D Mike Weaver
13. El Dorado – F Nick Spaling
14. Farmington – D Randy Jones
16. Charleston – F BJ Crombeen
19. Portland – G Rick DiPietro

Round 2

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